I never lost faith in the potential of tremolo, even after those opto-based amplitude processors in guitar amps had become quaint. X-Trem rewarded my faith—and it’s about time tremolo joined the 21st century, given that we’re a fifth of the way through it already.
This FX Chain does dual-band standard tremolo, harmonic tremolo, and panning—and because it’s dual-band, the high and low frequencies are processed independently. You can download the Ultimate TremPan FX Chain if you can’t wait, but because of the flexibility, let’s go through the control panel before covering how it works.
The control panel (Fig. 1) gives multiple ways to configure the effect. The low- and high-frequency bands have identical switches.
Figure 1: The TremPan control panel.
Let’s look at the controls. The low- and high-frequency bands have three controls in common.
The Hi/Lo Mix control determines the balance of the low- and high-frequency bands. Imaging spreads the low and high bands; when centered, the low and high bands are centered too, and if a band is in panning mode, it pans the full stereo field. Turning this control counter-clockwise moves the low band toward the left and the high band toward the right, while de-emphasizing panning so that when fully counter-clockwise, both bands are acting as tremolos in their respective channels. Turning this control clockwise reverse the action, i.e., when fully clockwise, the high band sounds like a tremolo in the left channel, while the low band sounds like a tremolo in the right channel.
Figure 2 shows the block diagram.
Figure 2: The processors inside the Ultimate TremPan FX Chain.
The Splitter does two splits based on frequency, with a split around 800 Hz. This seems to work well for guitar, but feel free to play around with it (I hope that in some future update, Splitter parameters will be assignable to control panel Macro knobs).
The Mixtools have their gains varied oppositely by the Lo/Hi Mix control to set the proportions of the high and low bands. The Dual pans in the Splits have their Input Balance controlled oppositely by the Imaging knob.
You have a lot of options, but here are some of my favorites.
The rhythmically synched effects can make one instrument almost sound like two instruments, working together as a team. This FX Chain can also animate hand percussion tracks by varying where the percussion happens in the stereo field. Have fun with this sucker—it’s time to re-discover amplitude modulation.
Universal Control 3.4 has arrived, adding WDM support and Interface Mode to StudioLive Series III mixers! (This update also adds support for Revelator and AVB-D16; Click here for the full release notes)
Interface Mode is designed to allow the inputs and outputs of your StudioLive mixer to be used like a traditional USB interface, instead of as a mixer with a USB interface that draws from the mixer’s channels and buses. In this configuration, the StudioLive’s USB Returns bypass the mix engine, and instead run directly to the physical, analog outputs on the mixer.
While this streamlined configuration does not work with a mixer that is in Stage Box or Monitor Mixer Mode, you will still be able to utilize your PreSonus AVB Ecosystem products with Interface Mode. You can still create personal monitor mixes via EarMix16M and connect different rooms with NSB Stage Boxes.
Note that Interface Mode will only affect the USB routing and the analog output sources. It won’t make any changes to the operation of your AVB routing.
Before using Interface Mode or Enhanced WDM Support on your StudioLive Series III, you’ll need to update two things:
To turn on Interface Mode for your mixer from the touch screen of the console mixers
Your FlexMixes will still be there if and when you choose to turn off Interface Mode, or turn an individual mix back on which I’ll go through a little later.
To turn on Interface Mode from UC Surface
That’s it! You’re now in interface mode. To turn Interface Mode off and go back to the default mixer setup just repeat these same steps.
For a deeper dive on Interface Mode and WDM support, download the new Interface Mode Addendum now!
One of the complaints about electronic music instruments and controllers is that they lack the expressiveness of acoustic instruments. Although future instruments will take advantage of MIDI 2.0’s enhanced expressiveness, two options are available right now: polyphonic pressure, and MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression). Studio One 5 can record/edit both, and ATOM SQ generates polyphonic pressure…so let’s dig deeper.
First, there’s some confusion because people call the same function by different names. Channel Aftertouch = Channel Pressure = Mono Aftertouch = Mono Pressure. Polyphonic Aftertouch = Polyphonic Pressure = Poly AT = Poly Aftertouch = Poly Pressure. Okay! Now we’ve cleared that up.
Aftertouch generates a control signal when you press down on a keyboard key after it’s down, or continue pressing on a percussion pad after striking it. Aftertouch is a variable message, like a mod wheel or footpedal—not a switch. A typical application would be changing filter cutoff, adding modulation, or doing guitar-like pitch bends by pressing on a key.
There are two aftertouch flavors. Mono pressure has been around since the days of the Yamaha DX7, and sends the highest controller value of all keys that are currently being pressed. Polyphonic pressure sends individual pressure messages for each key. For example, when holding down a chord for a brass section, by assigning poly pressure to filter cutoff, you can make just one note brighter by pressing down on its associated key. The other chord notes remain unaffected unless they’re also pressed.
Controllers with polyphonic aftertouch used to be fairly expensive and rare, but that’s changing—as evidenced by ATOM SQ.
As expected, you need a synth that responds to poly pressure. Many hardware synths respond to it, even if they don’t generate it. As to soft synths, although I haven’t tested all of the following, they reportedly support poly pressure: several Korg Collection synths, Kontakt, Reaktor, all Arturia instruments, all U-He instruments, XILS-Lab synths, TAL-Sampler, AAS synths, Albino 3, impOSCar2, Mach5, and Omnisphere. If you know of others, feel free to mention them in the comments section below. (Currently, Studio One’s bundled instruments don’t respond to polyphonic aftertouch.)
Figure 1: ATOM SQ being set up to generate Poly Pressure messages.
With ATOM SQ, press the Setup button. Hit the lower-left “pressure” button below the display, then spin the dial to choose Poly (Fig. 1). Note that if ATOM SQ outputs poly pressure, most instruments that respond only to channel (mono) aftertouch will ignore these messages.
Record poly pressure in Studio One 5 as you would any MIDI controller. To edit pressure messages, use the Edit window’s Note Controller tab. Select Pressure for the Type, and then the Pitch of the note you want to edit. Or, click on a note to select its corresponding note Pitch automatically. You can then edit that note’s poly pressure controller as you would any other controller (Fig. 2).
Figure 2: The selected Note’s data is white; unselected notes of the same pitch are blue. The gray lines in the background show the poly pressure controller messages for notes with other pitches.
It may seem that editing data for individual notes would be tedious, and it can be. However, because poly pressure allows for more expressive real-time playing, you might not feel the need to do as much editing anyway—you won’t need to use editing to add expressiveness that you couldn’t add while playing.
A fine point is that it’s currently not possible to copy Note Controller data from one note, then paste it to a note of a different pitch (probably because the whole point of poly AT is for different notes to have different controller data). However, if you copy the note itself to a different pitch, the Note Controller data will go along with it.
Although ATOM SQ can adopt a layout that resembles a keyboard, it would be a mistake to see it as a stripped-down version of a standard keyboard. Controllers with polyphonic pressure tend to think outside the usual keyboard box, by incorporating pads or other transducers that are designed for predictable pressure sensitivity. Poly pressure has been around for a while, but a new generation of MIDI controllers (like ATOM SQ) are making the technology—and the resulting expressiveness—far more accessible for those who want to wring more soul out of their synths.
The How to Make Spotify Happy blog post picked up a lot of interest, so let’s take the concept a bit further. Even if you’re not dealing with a streaming service, having consistent listening levels in your music makes sense—especially with a collection of songs. But what happens if a song is compressed for artistic reasons, yet you still want to aim for a standard listening level (streaming or otherwise)?
The beauty of the LUFS specification is that it avoids penalizing those who want to take advantage of dynamic range in their music (jazz, classical, etc.). But not everyone creates music that requires maximum dynamic range. I add about 4 to 6 dB of gain reduction when mastering my music, and aim for -13.0 LUFS, because I like what a little compression does to glue the tracks together. However, I do want the music to be streaming-friendly—and the whole point of this post is that Limiter2 makes it easy to hit both LUFS and True Peak settings recommended by various streaming services.
Fig. 1 shows the screen shot for an exported, pre-mastered song. It has a -18.0 LUFS reading. My goal is -13.0 LUFS, with a true peak value below 0.0.
To get closer to -13.0 LUFS, let’s start with a Limiter2 Threshold of -5.00, because applying -5.00 dB of gain reduction to -18.00 LUFS should put us somewhere around -13 dB LUFS. To control True Peak, we’ll use Mode A, Fast Attack (Fig. 2).
We’ve come close to -13.0, but the true peak is well above 0.0. Bringing down the Ceiling by -2 dB puts that 1.6 dB True Peak reading under 0.0 (Fig. 3).
We’ve brought down the peaks, but because the output is lower, the perceived level is lower too (-13.5 LUFS). Dropping the threshold by ‑0.7 dB brought the LUFS to -13.0, while maintaining a TP value under 0.0 (Fig. 4).
We can also make streaming services (like Spotify) happy, with -14.0 LUFS and -1.0 TP values (Fig. 5).
But suppose you really like to compress stuff, not because you want to win the loudness wars per se, but just because you like that sound. Fair enough—let’s give listeners music with -9.0 LUFS, and not worry about True Peak (Fig. 6).
But What About the Loudness Wars?
I’m glad you asked. If your music doesn’t meet a streaming service’s specs, they’ll turn it down to an equal perceived level. But what does that sound like?
In the audio example, the first part is of an unmastered song at -9.0 LUFS. It’s fairly loud, and could win at least a skirmish in the loudness wars. The second part is the same unmastered song at -14.0 LUFS, which sounds much quieter.
The third part turns down the -9.0 LUFS section to -14.0 LUFS. Although it has the same overall perceived level as the second part, it sounds compressed, so it has a different character. Bottom line: If you like the sound of compression, a streaming service will not change that sound; it will simply turn down the volume to match material that’s not as compressed. So feel free to use a rational amount of compression—the sound you want will still be there, just at a lower level.
And if you want a higher level…well, that’s why the volume control was invented… right?
In celebration of our 25th anniversary, PreSonus announced the new River City Sessions performance series earlier this year. The online series features regional artists in the Greater Baton Rouge area performing in PreSonus’ world-class, Walters-Storyk Design Group-designed River City Studio at PreSonus HQ in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. COVID-19 restrictions forced us to close the studio to individuals who are not PreSonus employees, so we decided to take these sessions outside! Our latest session (#11 for those keeping track…) features local rocker Luis Manuel and his band The Hitchhiker performing “Glad it’s Not Her, Glad it’s Not You.” Get to know Luis and watch the session below.
Give us some background on yourself. How long have you been making music?
I’ve been making music for the better part of the last 12-13 years. I learned how to play guitar by ear listening to bands like GNR, Thin Lizzy, The Darkness, ELO. Eventually, I started doing my own acoustic shows, did a few tours around the US with several bands, and then morphed into the Hitchhiker.
How has the music industry changed since your early days?
I’m sad to say it’s changed a lot! It seems like nobody cares about music as much as they care about how to run clout and pander with it. Maybe I’m just old? Could be, but The Hitchhiker boys can still rip after working 40 hours a week and slamming Jäger bombs.
Describe the first time you wrote a song? Produced it?
The first time was probably back in 2008 with my friend Josie. He really got me pumped about doing my own music. The guy is a musical wizard. The song was likely about my second breakup. Pre and post-production is the most fun part for me. I usually take charge, but the dudes always come up with awesome ideas that we always end up using. I usually write the music and the melody first, always based on mood. Then I bring parts of the rhythm section to Mark. He turns it into a juggernaut. Afterward, we collectively go from there, adding layers of cool. Big rocker guys. Great players. Great friends. Love them to death.
Who has been an influence in your life?
I have 3-4 spiritual leaders besides my dad. Oh, and Thin LIZZY.
Have you ever wanted to give up on music? What keeps you going?
Yes. Sometimes it’s writer’s block, sometimes it loses the “fun factor” when your band members have a lot of other important things go around. It can be demoralizing, but we’re big boys now! Gotta pay the bills! What keeps me going is that I can’t stop picking up that damn strat I just bought!
What do you like about PreSonus? What caught your eye?
All PreSonus products are very user-friendly, affordable, up to date and durable. Can’t beat that. The staff is phenomenal, all-around great people. They’ve always considered me even though I can’t sing very well and I’m forever grateful to them for that.
How has COVID-19 impacted your music?
It’s taken money out of my pocket because of lockdowns. I miss live shows, performing, and just enjoying the show! I think everyone can agree about that!
What are your plans for 2021?
Write and certainly release more music with the band. Work my tail off all across the board, be a better man, and love America even more.
2020 has been a year like none other that most of us can remember in our lifetimes. But, we managed to see another Halloween weekend come and go… and true to my own annual tradition, I busted out the Oingo Boingo playlist to honor the songwriting/compositional mastery of Mr. Danny Elfman, along with one of my all-time favorite drummers, Mr. Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez and his quirky approach to propelling all those amazing songs they created in the 80’s.
So, I had the honor of spending time this past NAMM 2020 in Anaheim at our PreSonus Booth with Mr. Bill Jackson, who I discovered was Oingo Boingo’s recording engineer on one of the songs to a hit movie I used to watch ad infinitum back in my youth, Weird Science and all subsequent album releases as well as my go-to end of year holiday film (to this day), Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. We spoke at length about how he’s been using our Faderport line of control surfaces to craft his mixing with total human organic interactivity.
Here then, is what he had to say and much more!
During college, I played guitar in bands and also recorded them, as well as other local artists, with a Teac A3340-S. I had no EQ on my Tascam mixer, but I had a Tapco spring reverb.
My career started at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. I started as the runner, but I was always going in early and staying late. Sunset has 3 rooms, and I would go to each room, before the session started and look at every mic, then follow the path through the console and all the outboard gear. These were great engineers, working on projects like Van Halen, Doobie Brothers, Toto, etc. Eventually, I was able to hang out during some of the sessions and the clients got to know me. That led to me getting thrown into a lot of sessions, including some for a solid month of engineering for Prince, Sheila E., and The Time.
I randomly was selected to be the assistant engineer on “Weird Science” by Oingo Boingo. When they came back the next week, to record the Dead Man’s Party album, the engineer could not commit to it, so he told Danny Elfman to use me. I recorded every album after that, including the final Live Farewell album.
Danny had also started scoring music for films, and I recorded music for about 12 films with Danny, including recording all of the singing voices for Nightmare Before Christmas.
Around the same time that I started working with Oingo Boingo, I had been recording demos with this producer, Howard Benson. That eventually led to recording and mixing about six major-label albums with Howard, including Bang Tango’s Psycho Café. Howard continues to make records that achieve gold, platinum, and #1 status.
I have probably worked on about 200 albums, in some capacity.
Now, I mix a lot of prime-time network television and a lot of documentaries and have created a space at my house for mixing all of that, as well as recording and mixing albums and singles for independent artists.
So, my PreSonus journey actually started with a music editor, Micha, that I was working with. I noticed that he (and other music editors), would bring in a little box, that sat beside their computer. It had one fader, cool transport control buttons, lots of function buttons and a big blue knob. I asked him about it, and he showed me what it could do. (Music editors, as part of their job, have to present Quicktime mixes to the producers, using the music score from the composer, the way it should sound in the finished mix. This helps the producers decide if they want to keep the music, or make changes to it).
NAMM was just a few weeks away, and by chance, I walked in to the entrance where PreSonus was set up. I was immediately drawn over to what turned out to be an 8-fader version of the single-channel FaderPort that the editors were using. I played around with it and asked a few questions, and when I got home, I ordered one of the first ones available.
What drew me to the FaderPort 8 was the small footprint and low profile. I like having it right in front of my timeline monitor, and it doesn’t block my view, as some new controllers can, and its depth is shallow enough that my monitor can stay completely behind it, but still be close to me. I also loved the price. I don’t think there is anything out there that compares with the FaderPort 8 and FaderPort 16, for the price.
What I like the most about the FaderPort series has to start with the amazing transport controls. Whomever designed this transport is a genius. I am all about minimal movement and conservation of energy. My setup has four monitors, and I divide my movements fairly evenly between my right and left hands.
The tactile feel of the buttons, and the precise layout, which matches where my fingers naturally fall, is awesome. Especially if I am recording overdubs and constantly using the transport controls… I don’t have to move the position of my hand or even look at the controls. It is very ergonomic and natural.
Other features that make my life easier, are the big blue knob that allows me to quickly spin to the next bank of tracks, or move 1 channel at a time. I am always spinning that knob to get the channels that I want to be on the surface. In addition to a Solo Clear button, there is also a Mute Clear button, which will clear the solos and mutes showing on the surface in Pro Tools.
I like that the Audio and Virtual Instrument buttons can be used to switch between the Mix and Edit windows in Pro Tools.
Very convenient are the Latch, Trim, Touch, Write, Off and Read buttons, to change the automation setting of highlighted tracks.
Something that definitely should be mentioned, is that I can choose between Studio One, MCU, HUI, and MIDI Mode, when I set it up to use with my DAW.
I also love that I can adjust the fader sensitivity. I have always had issues with moving faders knowing that I am touching them. The Faderport gives me 7 levels of sensitivity to choose from. Level 6 works perfectly for my fingers.
I can also easily adjust the contrast and brightness of the display to work with my viewing angle.
It comes in handy for recording music, especially how the large Select buttons can become the Arm buttons, in bright red. My average tracking session is about 12-14 tracks of drums and the other live musicians (usually playing along as guide tracks for the drummer). Boingo always recorded that way, with everyone playing live, even if we were only going to keep the drums. I still record like that. It helps the band realize that the tempo and drum parts are right.
The Faderport 16 especially shines when it comes to mixing for Television. Here’s the workflow/process:
For each episode, my mix tech, Christina, at Sony, sends me the Pro Tools session, which is made from a combination of my template and my FX editor, Mike’s session, and the audio files folder that goes with it. They both have my template, so this is an easy collaboration. Mike has cut in all of the FX and BG tracks, from scratch, but also includes some pre-mixed 5.1 sounds, that I have made from previous episodes, that I sometimes blend into similar scenes in the new episodes. It ends up being a combination of my pre-mix and his new tracks, for these particular scenes. Mike also includes the Foley, which is performed by Robin and Sarah, the Foley walkers that I love at Sony. I asked for them to be on Madam Secretary, and they also created the Foley for other shows I worked on, such as The Goldbergs, and now The Resident.
What is great about the Faderport 16, is that I can easily grab the eight or so background tracks for a scene, and get a quick balance, then I press the Sends button, and (in this case, select Send C) and grab those same faders to add the ambiance reverb to the BGs that I have selected for that scene.
I then press the Pan button, which turns those same faders into left and right panners, that I use to pan the more specific tracks of the BGs, such as typing, paper shuffling, cars, and sirens. If I am just panning a single track, I may grab the blue pan knob to do a traditional knob pan. Any surround panning is accomplished with a touch screen I have, which mimics the surround panner in Pro Tools. I also use the Sends button to send FX to the subchannel, and any of the other 3 reverbs that I use. Even though I am using HUI control, I am able to do all of this. I also have the input meter turned on, as well as the ability to see the fader dB levels in the scribble strip. I also use the VCA button to show and hide my EQ plug-in. The Shift-Track buttons allow me to display the SMPTE (or BPM) onto the strip.
When I started mixing episodic television at my place, I need to be able to work efficiently and fast. I had used other small format controllers, but wanted something different in price and also features.
Having 16 faders available on the surface. I really mean this, when I am mixing backgrounds, it is nice to have the faders spaced relatively close together. I can work faster, grabbing 8-10 faders, and then switching to Sends mode and grabbing the same faders to add ambiance. This works very efficiently for me.
Seeing the track input levels on the FaderPort, as well as the level of the fader, really help during a mix, as well as the other features that I mentioned.
I would love to have a single button for saving. I am saving my session all the time, and it would be great if I could just double-tap on the big blue knob to save my work.
All in all, I love how you guys took a console for everyone and made it work so well with HUI in Pro Tools.
An added bonus of mixing at Jacksonland (my home studio) with the FaderPort 16, is that I already had a personal mix workflow in place when COVID-19 appeared, and have been able to continue working on The Resident, every week while all of us are sequestering ourselves from each other, since I was already mixing in this manner.
It’s not surprising a lot of Studio One users also have Ableton Live, because they’re quite different. I’ve always felt Studio One is a pro recording studio (with a helluva backline) disguised as software, while Ableton is a live performance instrument disguised as software.
Fortunately, if you like working simultaneously with Live’s loops and scenes and Studio One’s rich feature set, Studio One can host Live as a ReWire client. Even better, ATOM SQ can provide full native integration with Ableton Live when it’s ReWired as a client—once you know how to set up the MIDI ins and outs for both programs.
Now ATOM SQ will act as an integrated controller with Ableton Live while it’s ReWired into Studio One. Cool, eh?
To return control to Studio One, reverse the process—in Live, set Control Surface to None, and toggle the MIDI Ports that relate to ATOM SQ from On to Off. In Studio One’s Options > External Devices, For ATOM SQ, reconnect ATOM SQ to Receive From and Send To.
Note that with ATOM SQ controlling Studio One, the Transport function still controls both Live and Studio One. Also, if Live has the focus, any QWERTY keyboard assignments for triggering Clips and Scenes remain valid. So even while using ATOM SQ in the native mode for Studio One, you can still trigger different Clip and Scenes in Live. If you switch the focus back to Studio One, then any QWERTY keyboard shortcuts will trigger their assigned Studio One shortcuts.
Note: When switching back and forth between Live and Studio One, and enabling/disabling Studio One and Ableton Live modes for ATOM SQ, to return to Live you may need to “refresh” Live’s Preferences settings. Choose None for the Control Surface and then re-select ATOM SQ. Next, turn the various MIDI Port options off and on again.